Books | February 18, 2020 10:46 am

Meet Susan Fowler, the Whistleblower Who Took on Uber

Her new autobiography details the harassment and bullying office culture at the ride-share company

Susan Fowler
Susan Fowler speaking at the 2019 SXSW festival
Rita Quinn/Getty Images for SXSW

In 2017, Susan Fowler wrote a blog post that described the harassment, discrimination and corporate bullying she both noticed and experienced while working as a software engineer at Uber.

The harassment she documented included a proposition from her manager on Fowler’s first day at work. When she complained to human resources, the department refused to act except to administer a “stern talking-to.” Fowler also noted another manager changed a performance review to block her transfer and that HR blamed her for the issues (while denying they had any complaints from her or any employees), and she recalled a ridiculous story involving leather jackets.

When official channels didn’t work, Fowler (then just 25 years old) left Uber and wrote a blog about her experience. That post went viral, eight months before the Times and the New Yorker published allegations regarding Harvey Weinstein (seen as one of the first catalysts of the #MeToo movement). Her post help spur further investigations into the ride-share service and led to the eventual dismissal of CEO Travis Kalanick.

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Fowler’s story is documented in her new biography, Whistleblower: My Journey to Silicon Valley and Fight for Justice at Uber, where the author describes her rise from a large family living in a trailer park to studying particle physics at the University of Pennsylvania, where she also experienced a disturbing stalking incident and was bizarrely pushed by her professors to set aside her own research work and help out a suicidal student.

Susan Fowler

Most importantly, Fowler’s book provides a how-to on dealing with harassment at work; essentially, document everything (this is emphasized) and complain, repeatedly if needed, through proper channels.

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